24 June 2009
Dear Prime Minister
RE: Future of Public Services in the London Borough of Barnet and throughout the UK
I am writing to you on behalf of my members working for Barnet Council in response to ‘financial Armageddon scenario’ not just for local government but for all public services over the next four years irrespective whether it is a Labour or Conservative Government.
Last June, our Council began a consultation with staff and other public sector bodies in our borough entitled ‘Future Shape’ just before the financial meltdown devastated economies globally.
To read letter in full click here
Less than 14 days before we read the Future Shape Cabinet report!
Everyone keeps asking me if I know what is going to be in the report.
“I don’t know, as I have reported before, I don’t know what is in store for Public Services in Barnet.”
It won’t be long before the report will be on the Councils internet, hopefully the week commencing 29 June.
It was a busy week at both Local Government and National Delegate Conference.
Barnet is still one of a few Councils looking at something as big as Future Shape. But the clear message from branches and national UNISON officers was that we are entering into unchartered waters. Future budget forecasts for ALL Public Services are not looking good.
Whilst it is good the Council needs to demonstrate to our residents that they are getting value for money. I don’t think it acceptable we just shake our heads an accept it. Politicians from all parties have to re-think what they are going to offer us the electorate next May.
“Why would we vote for redundancy and the dismantling of our Pensions?”
That is all they are offering at the moment.
I think sometime in the next 11 months we are going to be asked a question. I hope we all agree that cuts/redundancies/Pensions Scheme dismantled is not what UNISON members would vote for.
Make sure you make plans to spend a few hours on Monday 6 July to attend the lobby of the Future Shape Cabinet Committee.
At the time of producing this flyer the Trade Unions have no idea what sort of recommendations will be in the report.
Our new Chief Executive has been providing staff with regular updates on Future Shape, recently he wrote:
“there is an emerging theme that all providers in the borough need to be working as ‘one public service’ so that we can better serve our residents. Thinking through what this means and how we might achieve it seems to me to be crucial to not just the Future Shape Project but actually how the council will operate in the future.”
Whilst no one can predict what Council services will look like it is clear that services will not stay the same. In some cases staff may find themselves working for another organisation. For others it may be working more closely with other public services in Barnet e.g. Primary Care Trust, Barnet College This is why we need you to be discussing this in your team meetings and asking questions about what it could mean.
Future Shape cannot be separated from the Government’s response to the global collapse of the financial sector. It is already well documented that Public Services are facing £ Billions in cuts over the next five years. It is a concern for all of us as to what this will mean for services and jobs in Barnet.
It is clear from members attending our Trade Union surgeries that staff are sceptical about Future Shape, viewing it as just another ‘privatisation model’. The Trade Unions understand these concerns and have repeatedly expressed them both to the Leader, Chief Executive and Councillors. The exclusion of the Trade Unions from the Seven Future Shape groups was a mistake. If major change is coming, it is vital that we are directly involved from the beginning of the process and throughout and not just at the end.
Locally we have many examples of ill-thought out proposals resulting in staff being privatised only for the service to fail in quality & savings. The Trade Unions are keen that mistakes of the past are not just acknowledged but inform our future relations through Commissioning/Procurement and Contract monitoring.
After 6th July Future Shape Cabinet Committee
We are looking to see greater collaboration with our Employer after Future Shape Cabinet Committee. The Trade Unions need to be included in the detailed work on the Future for Services and that includes YOU the staff across all levels of the services.
On Monday 6 July it is important you are there in person with your work colleagues to witness your future both as a member of staff and the services you provide.
We are organising a Mass lobby of the
Future Shape Cabinet Committee Monday 6 July 6 pm
outside Barnet House,
To view newsletter click here
At our meeting we told Councillors that our exclusion from the Future Shape Groups meant we were not able to take part in the consultation. Last September we identified key issues for our members e.g. Pay, annual leave and Pensions, but to date these issues were not viewed as a priority at this stage. We have asked that the Trade Unions need to be fully involved in a future discussions about the Future of Council Services. We were informed a Future Shape report had been agreed at Corporate Directors Group, and a copy would be shared with the Trade Unions once more data had been added from the consultants.
As for the final Future Shape report for the 6 July Cabinet Committee we will be given the report once it has been signed off by the Lead Cabinet member.
Speculation in the NLBP village on what maybe being recommended is rife and understandable. I want to draw your attention to the 15 June Cabinet Resources Committee. Section 3.2 says
“The service provided by the in-house Legal Service is in high demand to deliver on the Council’s priorities. Moving to the Council’s ‘Future Shape’ will involve additional and extensive legal input.”
Full report click here
It is understandable that if there is going to be major change you will need a good legal team. It is interesting but not unexpected to see other Councils are also already making plans
“Currently, the “Consortium Councils” are the
The Trade Unions need to examine the Tenderers’ Scores; it is interesting to see Essex County Council put in a tender.
“Which firm of solicitors were the successful bidders?”
Unfortunately this information is in the Exempt report, once it is approved at the committee the name of the firm will be made public.
Back to Future Shape:
“Does this appointment of a panel of solicitors give an indication as to what we should expect in the Future Shape Cabinet Report 6 July?”
I suppose we will have to wait for the report.
We may not have Susan Boyle working for Barnet but we do have talented staff. Whilst we wait for news on what Future Shape will mean for staff and public services I hope staff will be given the opportunity to contribute to any Future changes.
Some Good News
Those of you who have had the time to look at the Future Shape website will have noticed the term ‘Quick Win’ on a number of slides. I believe the term ‘Quick Win’ has been acknowledged as an inappropriate term conveying a negative message.
Where is the good new news?
If and when services are packaged together they need to go through a robust process before any decisions are made.
Cemeteries and Crematorium services were put down as a ‘Quick win’ a Consultants report recommended the privatisation option. The Trade Unions produced a report which raised concerns about the process & recommendations in the report. I am pleased to report the service is going through the correct process. The Trade Unions and the staff are now part of the process. This is key.
Back to Future Shape, it is important that staff don’t panic if they see their service being packaged up for a possible privatisation model. There is still a great deal of work which would need to take place before any decisions about moving forward to a procurement including if an in house bid would be included.
From the little that is being made available the Seven Groups reflect the complexity of the problem facing Public Services across Barnet. It is important that decisions are not rushed which is why the Trade Unions are confused why there are different completion timescales for the Groups which are clearly interlinked.
To visualise the complexity we have constructed a diagram.
To view image click here http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/sites/default/files/Future_Shape_jenga1.JPG